Mercedes and AMG bring us the sports car we knew they were capable of. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Mercedes-AMG GT looks set to shake up the performance coupe market with a combination of extreme power, sleek styling and all the combined know-how of the Affalterbach and Sindelfingen works. Two models are offered at present. More are on the way.
We're glad it's over. The tortuous teasers, stage-managed leaks of 'spy' shots and so-called secret documents to the internet, along with countdowns, build-ups and every other press office trick to draw attention to the fact that here was a New Thing. Then when we finally saw the Mercedes-AMG GT (note: not labelled a 'Mercedes-Benz'), we had to admit that although the wait had been long, it might just have been worth it.
If you got sucked in a little with all the hype, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was the first sports car Mercedes had ever produced. It's far from that, but let's spool the clock back just a few years to the Mercedes-McLaren SLR. Here was a project where neither partner got what they wanted. McLaren went away and built the lovely 12C coupe to demonstrate its credentials to Mercedes and the three-pointed star came back with the SLS AMG to show that they weren't the deadbeat partner. The SLS was a huge image builder for AMG, doing well both in terms of sales and competition and it's the success of that car that paves the way for a more affordable sports model that's no less special. The AMG GT is going to form the backbone of AMG's sporting portfolio for quite some time to come.
'Mercedes builds a 911', screamed all of the enthusiast mags, who then stopped screaming that when they saw the thing. The AMG GT is quite a different thing, power being delivered by a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 driving the rear wheels. The powerplant has an unusual layout, with the turbochargers not attached to the outside of the engine like most ancillaries, but housed inside the 'V' of the V8 - something AMG calls the 'hot inside V' configuration. At present, there are two distinct models on offer. The standard GT generates 462PS and 600Nm of torque, while the GT S is good for 510PS and 650Nm. Both are hugely quick, as you'd expect when they're pushing just over 1,500kg. The GT gets to 62mph in 4 seconds and runs on to 189mph, while the GT S edges it, recording 3.8 seconds to 62mph and a top speed of 193mph. The engine receives dry sump lubrication and is mounted behind the front axle line in what Mercedes-AMG describes as a front-mid position.
Drive goes to the rear via a seven-speed AMG DCT-SPEEDSHIFT dual clutch gearbox. This rear transaxle system offers decent weight distribution, with 47 per cent of the car's weight up front and 53 per cent aft. Depending on the model, the transmission offers up to five different driving modes: 'controlled efficiency', 'sport', 'sport plus', 'individual' and 'race' - the latter offered exclusively on the GT S. All versions are fitted with a standard locking differential. The GT receives a mechanical unit, while in a move that might be opposite to that which you expected, the GT S is fitted with an electronic version. The GT S also gets active driveline mounts which continuously isolate the mass effects of the engine and transaxle.
Design and Build
The styling of the AMG GT follows a definite theme, the long bonnet and squat glasshouse being an evolution of the SLR and SLS models. It's a subtler and gentler shape than both though, but not without purpose, with squat haunches suggesting all its power is balled up at the driven wheels. From the rear, there are elements of Porsche 911 in its curves which may or may not be deliberate, but it's a car with nary a bad angle. It's just a shame that we have to do without the SLS's magnificent gullwing doors.
Like the SLS, the GT is built around a lightweight aluminium body structure that, in this case, weighs a mere 231 kilos. Drop inside and you're greeted with a broadly sweeping dash with a hugely chunky centre console. The sightlines at first seem a bit pinched but the driving position is lovely and Mercedes has fitted a beautifully tactile steering wheel. There's even an element of practicality too, Mercedes realising that cars in this class are built to be used rather than looked at. The rear hatch allows access to a luggage compartment with a capacity of some 350-litres.
Market and Model
Expect to pay just over £97,000 for the GT version and around £110,000 for the GT S. This means that, on price at least, the GT competes with the Porsche 911 Turbo, rather than the cheaper Carrera models that many had expected to rival it. The asking figures also puts this Mercedes up against cars like the Aston Martin Vantage and the Maserati GranTurismo Stradale. Both models are a bit pricier than a Jaguar F-TYPE R and quite significantly cheaper than a Bentley Continental V8 or a Ferrari California.
The interior's beautifully finished, with aluminium shift paddles, silver chrome trim elements and sports seats in ARTICO material. A free-standing 7-inch central display is located centrally above the four ventilation outlets. The driver operates the seat heating, PARKTRONIC, the hazard warning lights and, depending on the equipment, the extendable rear aerofoil using the buttons in the top control panel in the roof frame. The GT S also gets an instrument cluster with a 224mph speedometer scale and red colour highlights, plus a performance steering wheel in black nappa leather and DINAMICA microfibre, an AMG emblem embossed in the centre armrest and upholstery in ARTICO and DINAMICA microfibre. As an option, the silver chrome trim can be swapped out for carbon fibre, matte silver fibreglass or black diamond. AMG GT buyers can further boost performance of their car through the fitment of optional carbon-ceramic brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.
Cost of Ownership
For a car with a turbocharged V8 engine, fuel economy isn't as catastrophic as you'd imagine. The GT returns 30.4 mpg and emits 216g/km of CO2, while the GT S doesn't impose too much of a penalty for its additional 48PS, returning 30.1mpg and emitting 219g/km. Both cars get better economy and lower emissions than something like a Honda S2000.
Residual values are likely to hold up well given that this is a new product line and not a continuation of an existing model. Clearly much will hinge on how well this car is received in reviews against its key rivals.
The Mercedes-AMG GT is going to have all manner of rivals very worried indeed. When the range gets fleshed out, everything from a Nissan GT-R to a Bentley Continental GT will be in its gunsights and the AMG team at Affalterbach are extremely confident of success. Perhaps the most difficult thing right now is pinning down exactly what this car is. That might sound trite; it's clearly a two-seater coupe but this market is driven by nuance. Enthusiasts are clear about what differentiates, say, an Aston Martin Vantage from a Jaguar F-TYPE R. Where the AMG GT might struggle is in trying to be all things to all customers.
If that's the extent of its problems, Mercedes will be delighted. We will no doubt see more focused models come on stream, with the rumour mill running overtime. The fact that this car isn't marketed as a Mercedes-Benz, instead carrying the 'Mercedes-AMG' badging, speaks volumes. This is a new front in the performance car market. It might well be a very successful one too.